• Travel Stories
  • A Must-See and Try in Istanbul Turkey

    Istanbul is one of the most visited places in Turkey. It is a place that straddles between Europe and Asia. It is such a great place to experience the best of the both continents! There are lots of great architectural work that will amaze you and wants you to learn more about their culture, art, tradition and history. It was autumn of last year when I visited the place, I can still recall how fascinating Istanbul was!

    Listed down are some of the beautiful places I have visited and some foods and drinks I have tried:

    Blue Mosque is located in Sultahnahmet. It is one of the few mosques with 6 minarets in the world. It is still a place for prayer so someone needs to cover up / dress appropriately when visiting the mosque. Women should wear headscarves. The mosque is made of blue tiles which is quite unique.

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    Basilica Cistern located in Sultahnahmet too. It is an underground chamber built to provide water to the city in the old time. It is one of my favorite sightseeing places in Istanbul for its great architectural work in 6th century. Once you see the place, you will be amazed on how brilliant the people who have thought of building this. It is something that will take your breath away.

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    Taksim Square is a place located on the European side of Istanbul. There are lots of bars, restaurants on this area that drives tourist to flock the area. It is such a busy place from morning till late in the evening. We chose to stay on this area due to its accessibility to different tourist spots.

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    Topkapi Palace is the home of the Ottoman. Seeing the different pavilions, jewel filled treasury will give you a glimpse of how the sultans lived their lives from before. Such a very interesting place!  It is said to be the oldest and largest palace in the world to survive in our day. Sad to say picture taking was strictly prohibited inside the pavilions. “It is for your eyes only”

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    Pierri Loti Café is located in Eyup on the hill top that gives a great view of Istanbul. The place was said to be named after a French naval officer with the pen name Pierri Loti who goes to this place to contemplate and write. A lot of tourists and locals go to this area to relax and just enjoy the view. Best to have a tea or coffee!

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    Spice Bazaar is one of the largest bazaars in the city and located in Eminonu .If you love spices, herbs, dried nuts and fruits never leave the place without trying these! love tea so I bought my apple tea in here!

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    Bosphorus Cruise –Bosphorus strait is the natural waterway dividing Europe and Asia! It is what separates the European part of Turkey to Asian part.  I have tried the night cruising along the Bosphorus River. Buffet dinner and drinks were served with Turkish entertainment on board. Something new to try.

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    Raki is like the national alcoholic drink in Turkey which is unsweetened, anise flavored drink that is 40% in alcoholic content .Someone should be careful in drinking Raki or else you will be knocked down!  It is traditionally drink with water and ice. It is said, it is best paired with a fish meal.  I am not a big fan of anise but it was ok to try it though.

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    Sahlep is a hot milky drink famous during winter season. It is made from the tubers of the orchid genius Orchis found in the south of Turkey as well as Black Sea provinces. I personally like the taste where it is creamy especially with ground cinnamon and pistachio on the top.

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    Simit is a round bread crusted with sesame seeds which is the usual breakfast for the Turkish people. Simit is available almost everywhere on the streets. It is generally served plain, paired with tea, fruit preserves or cheese.

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    Ortakoy is a famous place in Istanbul for Kumpir. Kumpir is a potato with lots of variety of toppings to choose from. The street is very well known as Kumpir Sokak which means Baked Potato Street. The place is very famous for tourists and locals.

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    Galata Tower is a cylindrical medieval stone tower located in Galata/Karakoy that provides a 360 panoramic view of Istanbul. The tower was the tallest building in Istanbul around 66.9m when it was built in 1348. Pretty impressive! There is an admission fee of 11Turkish Lira (7 USD) to go up of the tower but it’s all worth it. Be warned that the queues can be long and the balcony can be crowded so patience is a must!

    Kokorec is a famous delicacy made of lamb or goat intestines. It is considered a street food. It is usually served as sandwich but could be served without bread, just on a plate as a normal meal. It is best with Ayran (yogurt drink popular in Turkey with salt), beer or any soft drinks.

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    Sac Tava means convex pan. It is a traditional Turkish food that can be beef, lamb or chicken served in a sizzling plate with some sauce on it. It is usually served with bread that is very thin like tortilla wrap.

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    Dondurma , ice cream in Turkish. It is made up of sugar, milk, and salep. It is tough and sticky.  Of all the dondurma I have tried, the best was the one we bought in Mado! Never ever leave Turkey without trying this. It is really irresistible!

    Sultanahmet Area is the oldest part of Istanbul. Majority of Istanbul’s historical prides are located on this area such as Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Hippodrome.

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    Turkish Bath (Hammam) is a major part of the Turkish culture, for cleansing and for relaxation. Males are separated from the females. First you will be given a towel to wrap yourself then lay down on a flat elevated marble area, then the attendant will start to wash, massage and scrub you. A hand woven wash cloth is used during the scrubbing. Then you will go to a hot room for cooling down and lastly take a cold shower assisted by the attendants. At the end of the bath, a Turkish tea will be served. Truly such a different experience!

    Istanbul Turkey is indeed a world center for great value in the past as well as in the present. It is a place where extraordinary cultural experience lies in every  corner. Really a “Must-See and a Must-Try” if given a chance to. Take a trip to Turkey with Agoda.

    What is your dream destination in Turkey? Share on the comments below.

  • Travel Stories
  • Ski Lesson in Dubai

    It was an unforgettable snow experience. My Uncle and cousins taught me the basic of skiing. It was not easy for me being a first timer in skiing, but still I managed to do it. We all know that skiing is not a common sport in the Philippines being a “snow-free” country. Recently, my passion for outdoor activities prompted me to do skiing again. But this time with real instructors! Just so enthusiastic to learn the basic and techniques in Skiing. Let me give you then the bird’s eye view of “Ski Dubai”.

    Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 sq m area available in the Middle East. Ski Dubai is located in Mall of Emirates which is one of the largest malls in the world. There are numerous of activities to do in Ski Dubai such as skiing, snowboarding or just simply enjoy the snow and amenities. Different passes are available depends to what kind of activities you want to try. Ski Dubai caters all kind of people- kids and adults who just love snow! Winter clothing, ski or snowboard equipment are included in the admission except for the gloves. Gloves are available in Ski Dubai stores or you can just bring one if you don’t want to spend more money.

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    My friend Yana and I opted to go for Ski Lesson. It is a group lesson for first timers.There was like 11 persons that time when we had our lesson. First we took our equipment necessary for skiing-wardrobe and the boots. There was a queue for those and also a room for changing clothes and a locker to keep personal stuff. In choosing the boots, it is best to get a pair of boots that will fit you well. The boots were heavy and hard to put on but there were instructors willing to help around if someone needs any assistance. In our case, someone helped us to fix our boots as well as how to put on properly the pants (I’m a bit of ashamed but hey some instructors were really good looking, haha!)

    After putting on the proper outfit and boots, we all gathered in one place to have our orientation. We were taught about techniques on how to move with the boots on while carrying the ski and I think it was really necessary or else one will stumble down or cannot even walk around. We were instructed to put the heel first on the ground then let the foot moves from heels to toes. Second instruction taught was how to carry the ski properly. It is carried in an upright position on the side.

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    When we reached the area for our ski lesson, there were some exercises performed. The instructor taught us how to properly put on the skis. Important tips were also imparted such as proper balancing. Bending the knees and leaning forward to achieve proper balance and position. Leaning forward towards the boots provide more control over the skis. Another lesson was how to climb the hill which is to take sidestep. It is important not to look down to avoid accident too. Always look straight! Each of us was given the chance to learn the basic of skiing with the supervision of the instructor.

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    In general, it was fun because the instructor made us feel at ease and comfy! Great sense of humor and did I forget to mention, the instructor was a Filipino too! The activity lasted for 60 minutes! if you want to go for an advance lesson,  it is available too. Everyone had a blast and so much fun! The moments of fall, slip and up again was just a fun-filled activity for us. Though I think skiing is not really for everyone. Someone should just enjoy and have fun learning new things in life and the company of new people around!

    Do you any plans of visiting Dubai? Book a trip to Dubai with Agoda.  Have fun! 

  • Travel Stories
  • Adventure in Jabal Shams

    I love exploring the beauty of Oman. One day one of my couchsurfers invited me to climb Jabal Shams. Without second thoughts, I decided to go with my buddy. For sure, it would be another great adventure for me – trekking to the highest mountain in Oman, Jabal Shams!

    Jabal Shams is called the Mountain of the Sun and the Grand Canyon in Arab region. Considering the weather now in Oman, it is a great escape from heat and humidity. Temperature in Jabal Shams in daytime is around 30 degrees Celsius and 15-19 degrees Celsius night time, so who wouldn’t want to go there?!

    We started our day so early, left Nizwa (where my place is) by hitch hiking as early as 6.00 am. Not much cars passed by that time so we waited for like 15-20 minutes before we finally found a car which was on the same way. The Omani dropped us to Bahla, and then from Bahla we took another car going to Al Hamra. From Al Hamra, again we hitched a car but it wasn’t that hard to hitch by the time. But from Al Gool , it took us another 20 minutes until finally we found a car going to Al Kathaym where the trekking starting point was. All in all we took 5 cars to reach Al Kaythaym and all by means of hitchhiking! It was our plan to do hitchhiking all throughout the travel to Jabal Shams from Nizwa proper. I must say someone should be really patient to wait if you plan to go by hitchhiking! We reached Jabal Shams before 10:00 am!

     

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    Cheapest way to travel, hitchhiking… =)
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    One of vehicles we took had so many selling stuffs at the back of his car!

    There are 2 different paths of trekking in Jabal Shams, either you can take W4 or W6 route on which you are comfortable doing so.  W6 is a 2-3 hours trek and W4 around 8-9hours. You can get further information about trekking route on Oman Tourism website. My buddy encouraged me to take the W4.We have read some blogs that it wasn’t that hard to take the W4 so with some encouragement coming from all the blogs we have read, we decided to take the longer one.

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    The mark on our way up to the mountain

    We were so excited then, that we didn’t notice we lost the marks to guide us on our way up. Yes, there are stony markers for every like 2-3 meters yet we got lost and have to return back to where we all started. Finally at around 11:00 am, we conditioned ourselves not to miss any single sign going. He was walking before me. For me W4 wasn’t an easy path. Coming from a family without trekking experience, was indeed hard for me!  It was really a long rocky trek with some steep cliff.  I remembered resting for how many times to eat and drink but the view was really stunning. At 3:30 pm (almost 4-5 hours of walking), I decided to stay put on the position I am standing. I took rest and just enjoyed the fascinating view of the canyon. My buddy left and decided to climb till Qarn Al Ghamaydh.On that moment, I felt really tired and exhausted so i decided to wait for him on the middle of the mountain.

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    Rocky long trek!

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    Up in the mountain

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    Grand Canyon of the Arab Region

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    I didn’t force myself to climb till Qarn Al Ghamaydh. For a beginner, climbing the mountain would take a long walk for me.I just decided to stay, take a nap, eat and view the canyon on the side. “Oh what a peaceful place it was!” It was past 6:30 pm and my buddy had not come back yet, I was getting bit worried because it will be hard for us to go down the mountain when it’s dark. Finally he arrived at 6:40 pm.  Without any rest, we went down off the mountain. But yes we got lost again, the problem was we can’t see the sign and the rocks were huge! We can’t really see the path we’re going so we’ve been so careful. We reached 10:00 pm on the road and no cars going down the mountain!

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    My buddy, Fabio

    There were no houses near the road, the only available place to stay was a hotel. We got in to the hotel and asked if it is still possible to go down the mountain. The staff told us it is difficult to find a cab by that time. He was right! We tried to wait outside the hotel and there were no single car that passed by on that area. From that moment, I knew we will be stuck in the mountain. We were not prepared to camp out nor stay in a hotel. We didn’t bring enough money with us. It wasn’t even enough to stay in the hotel! With all the guts, I asked the manager if we could stay in the restaurant and spend the night there until sunrise will come. We were glad and surprised the manager gave us a place to stay with 2 beds and blankets for free! They even gave us foods for free too! Thanks to these Good Samaritan in the mountain. We are just so lucky! People with good heart still exist in this world!

    Got home the next day by hitchhiking again. What an unforgettable experience I had! If you plan to visit Oman, take a trip with Agoda.com

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    Tired yet fulfilled

    This is indeed a great experience, an awesome adventure worth sharing!  What is your ultimate getaway adventure experience? Share on the comments below.